Panel to Decide Fate of Pennsylvania Track Plan

The fate of Chester Downs and Marina, a Standardbred racetrack and entertainment center planned for southeast Pennsylvania, could be determined Jan. 9 when the Pennsylvania Harness Racing Commission meets to rule on the license application.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the impending ruling has triggered a lot of lobbying by rival applicants. Two other entities have applied for racetrack licenses in the area: Greenwood Racing want to build Seaport Park, a Thoroughbred track, in Chester, while Trotters & Pacers wants to construct a harness track on the Philadelphia waterfront. Chester is located only about 20 minutes from downtown Philadelphia.

A second hearing on the Seaport Park plan is scheduled for Jan. 27, the newspaper reported.

In 2001, the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission granted a license to Presque Isle Downs, a Thoroughbred track planned for Erie. There are three remaining licenses -- one Thoroughbred and two Standardbred -- in the state.

Another group, Horsemen's Park, has applied for a license to build a Thoroughbred track in the Philadelphia area. There have been other applications for harness licenses in the northeast and western parts of the state.

It is generally believed the flurry of applications is tied to the prospect of racetrack gaming. Gov. Ed Rendell has said he supports racetrack slot machines as a means to boost the state budget.

Pennsylvania has four operating racetracks: Penn National Race Course and Philadelphia Park, both Thoroughbred, and the Downs at Pocono and The Meadows, both harness.